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Spartan (2004)

Shes missing

Rating: 3/10

Running Time: 106 minutes

US Certificate: R UK Certificate: 15


Meet special-operations-type bloke Robert Scott. He’s one of those army/Secret Service/police/Government guys whose actual job description is never made entirely clear – but, whatever it is, it allows him to beat up crime suspects and fire bullets all over the place without any questions ever being asked. This guy ain’t just trigger-happy: he’s fist-happy, foot-happy, head-butt-happy – in fact, every kind of happy except just plain happy. In short, he’s a man so cruddy and dislikeable that he deserves to be smacked repeatedly around the face with a frying pan – although in ‘Spartan’ you’ll have to make do with the distant hope that he may at some point get shot (even though we all know at the back of our minds that, if there’s one thing the bad guys never seem to bother with, it’s target practice).

In this dark, dull and annoyingly up-itself guff-heap from writer-director David Mamet, the unenviable role of Mr Scott is taken by Val Kilmer. Kilmer’s a guy whose career is dotted with performances so teeth-grindingly awful that it’s a wonder he still gets work anywhere outwith community theatre, but even with that in mind I couldn’t help but feel sorry for him having to straight-facedly deliver lines like “Honey, you don’t know what trouble is” and “You didn’t see no sign baby, ‘cause she wasn’t there”.

The story follows Scott’s wooden, knuckle-scraping investigation into the kidnapping of a top politician’s daughter (Kristen Bell). Some extremely tenuous clues lead him to believe that she’s been nabbed by an Arab sex-slave ring, and his aim is to get to her and save the day before the press get wind of the whole thing and start making up silly headlines. But, when his bosses claim to have found proof that she’s already dead, he smells a rat (an impressive feat, given the over-whelming pong of the screenplay) and carries on his snoopings on his own.

‘Spartan’ is absolute codswallop. The story often moves from one plot-point to the next without bothering to tell us why, the acting is dreadful (including input from William H. Macy and Derek Luke, two men both capable of much better), and Mamet ties the whole thing together with clumsy political statements and dialogue so bad you can practically smell it wafting through the screen. It’s the sort of film Arnold Schwarzenegger used to make palatable through sheer screen presence and daft one-liners, but without that sort of tongue-in-cheek star quality or wit, what we’re left with is a downright miserable slice of self-congratulatory nonsense.

It's Got: An unconvincing straight role for Ed O’Neill – best known as Al Wotsit from ‘Married With Children’.

It Needs: Kilmer to practice a few facial expressions other than “confused” and “constipated”.

DVD Extras Kilmer’s commentary, and a trailer. Edition Reviewed: Spartan [2004] also available Spartan from DVD Extras Rating: 2/10


Gloomy, self-indulgent and not half as insightful as it thinks it is, you’ll be left wishing this one was “Spartan” enough to be over in a couple of minutes.